SEATTLE — Aerospace giant Boeing, currently engaged in contentious labor negotiations, has reversed itself on a prior statement that it would not provide pension survivor benefits to same-sex spouses of retirees in states where same-sex marriage is legal.
The issue came to the fore when Washington voters approved a ballot measure extending marriage rights to same-sex couples. According to Seattle newspaper, The Stranger, the company — which employs more than 75,000 workers in the state — justified the policy by saying the company was not compelled to extend the benefits by federal law.
“We are satisfied that this [new] language protects same-sex spouses,” said Ray Goforth, executive director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, which represents 23,000 Boeing engineers in Washington.
The policy, which reads “Recognizing Boeing’s commitment to equality without regard to sexual orientation, Boeing will extend pension survivor benefits to all spouses, as defined under either State or Federal law whichever defines the same sex person as a spouse,” would only protect Boeing’s union workers in Washington state.
In 2001, Boeing moved its headquarters from Seattle — where it had been located since 1916 — to Chicago. While unlike Washington, Illinois does not currently extend marriage rights to same-sex couples, the Washington Blade has reported that a bill to do so has strong support in both houses of the state legislature, and Gov. Pat Quinn has pledged to sign the bill into law if passed. Boeing also employs 59,304 people in Alabama, Arizona, California, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Texas. None of those states extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.